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Bob Mackin

The Richmond farmland mansion that operated as an illegal casino has been sold, theBreaker has learned. 

On June 29, 2017, the B.C. government’s Director of Civil Forfeiture applied to B.C. Supreme Court to seize 8880 Sidaway Road. The director alleged it had been the site of gambling, booze-fuelled parties and a kidnapping and beating.  

The value of the two-acre property and 12,000-square foot mansion was declared at $4.8 million in a May 11 title transfer. It had been assessed at $5.16 million last year. Colin Hynes of the Solicitor General’s communications office told theBreaker that the $2.4 million net sale proceeds are held under the interim preservation order, pending resolution of the ongoing forfeiture litigation. 

Richmond’s 8880 Sidaway (GuanJian.ca)

“To be clear, the case is ongoing and none of these funds have been forfeited to government,” Hynes said.

Lawyers for the government and defendants Wen Feng and Lap San Peter Pang agreed to an April 9 consent order that allowed Feng to use the mansion, but with conditions. There was to be no gambling or unlicensed liquor service, no kidnapping, unlawful confinement or assault or laundering of proceeds of crime. 

Feng was, however, allowed to sell the property for fair market value and pay the real estate agent a commission of no more than 7% on the first $100,000 and 2.5% on the balance, plus taxes and disbursements. 

“The registered owner must, forthwith upon completion of the sale, pay the sale price less the adjustments into court to the credit of this action,” said the order.

The June 29, 2017 filing stated that B.C. Lottery Corporation was informed in December 2015 that an illegal casino had operated on the premises. Feng was alleged to be a nominee or owner of convenience on behalf of Pang, the true, beneficial owner. 

Acting on an anonymous report of a hostage being held at gunpoint in April 2016, RCMP officers found 15 people gambling at tables, with chips and cards, a money counter and video surveillance system. Police also attended the property in late-May 2017 and mid-June 2017, to investigate reports of a stabbing and violent kidnapping, respectively, after injured victims checked-in to Richmond Hospital. Mounties executed a search warrant last June 14. 

“By converting the proceeds of unlawful activity into the property, the property was used by the defendants as an instrument of unlawful activity, namely the laundering of proceeds of crime,” said the court filing by government lawyer Michael Lawless against Feng and Pang.

Inside 8880 Sidaway (GuanJian.ca)

Feng’s Aug. 10, 2017 defence statement claimed she was the beneficial owner who bought the property for investment purposes and that she had never authorized Pang to enter the property. Feng said she agreed to lease it for two years to the Vancouver International Chinese Association in December 2015, but ended the arrangement in May 2016 after she had been informed of illegal activity. 

Pang denied all allegations of unlawful activity in his Oct. 5, 2017 response. He emphasized he had not been charged with any crimes arising from police investigations from 2015 to 2017. “The defendant has no legal or equitable interest in the property,” said Pang’s defence statement.

The eight-room, eight-bathroom Sidaway mansion was offered at $5.98 million by Regent Park Fairchild Realty. It is now registered to 1157191 B.C. Ltd., a numbered company whose sole director is Megan Martin with a company address at a $7.57 million mansion on Vancouver’s Southwest Marine Drive. 

That Vancouver mansion is in the name of Bo Hong Zhang, the son of Martin and Yuan Sheng Zhang. 

Martin, Yuan Sheng Zhang and Bo Hong Zhang are shareholders of Elecrtrameccanica Vehicles Corp. and listed as retired Canadian citizens in a related Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure. In 2015, the family donated $500,000 to the Richmond Hospital Foundation to buy imaging equipment. 

City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend said there is no permit or application for the Sidaway mansion to operate as a short-term rental.

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Bob Mackin The Richmond farmland mansion that operated

Bob Mackin

B.C. Lottery Corporation’s three amigos got away from the Kamloops-headquartered Crown corporation for an Asian junket, the week after the May 2017 provincial election. 

CEO Jim Lightbody, security director Robert Kroeker and casinos head Brad Desmarais jetted to the G2E Asia 2017 convention from May 16-18 in Macau, the tiny, former Portuguese colony known for flashy Las Vegas-style casinos and links to triads and corrupt government officials from Mainland China.

Documents released under the freedom of information law show they spent almost $16,000 on flights, hotels and meals.

The same trio made combined expense claims for almost $170,000 in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2017. 

BCLC’s Desmarais (left), Lightbody and Kroeker (BCLC)

The G2E Asia convention included sessions on Asian markets, database mining, casino yield optimization, e-sports and online casinos. 

There were also sessions on anti-money laundering and financial crime prevention, but it was not clear whether any of the trio attended the sessions that featured PricewaterhouseCoopers’ experts Vasilios Chrisos and Mary Wong. 

theBreaker asked BCLC for expense reports and copies of text handouts, business cards received, handwritten notes, digital files, and audio recordings from the convention. Only the trio’s expenses, registration documents and business cards they gathered were disclosed. 

BCLC censored the names of the persons from the copies of those business cards. 

The companies named on the business cards included: SGI Gaming, Macau; MGM Macau; Galaxy Entertainment Group, Macau; Aristocrat, Macau; Sociedade de Jogos de Macau S.A.; Oracle, Hong Kong; Walker Digital Table Systems, Macau; Macauslot; Hydako, Seoul; GPI; Oracle; and Aristocrat in Las Vegas.

Kroeker continued on after Macau to Singapore from May 19-22, where he stayed at the Marina Bay Sands and visited the Resort World Casino and Galaxy Casino. 

Lightbody was the Crown corporation’s vice-president in charge of casinos from 2011 until 2014 when he was promoted to replace Mike Graydon, who quit to work for the company behind the Parq Casino beside B.C. Place Stadium. He chairs the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, which inducted its class of 2018 at Parq. For the year-ended March 31, 2017, Lightbody was paid $338,405 plus $64,109 in expenses. 

Desmarais, a former senior officer with the RCMP and Vancouver Police, joined BCLC in early 2013 as vice-president of corporate security and compliance. He took over the casino division in mid-2015. His 2016-2017 pay totalled $243,260 plus $53,791 in expenses. 

Kroeker is a former executive director of B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office and former vice-president of security at Great Canadian Gaming. In a 2015 interview with Business in Vancouver, he said that money laundering does not happen at Great Canadian’s facilities, including flagship River Rock Casino Resort. Kroeker, a Justice Institute board member, submitted receipts for $51,714 in expenses on top of his $235,590 pay packet for 2016-2017.

In April, theBreaker asked Attorney General David Eby whether he had confidence in the executive leadership at BCLC, amid B.C.’s casino money laundering scandal, and whether any changes were on the horizon. 

Said Eby: “I’ve been working closely with the executive at BCLC throughout the [Peter] German review and will continue to work closely with them as we work to implement the recommendations that he has put forward. Mr. German’s report will speak for itself, in terms of what exactly the issues were he identified in his review, and I look forward to releasing it as quickly as possible.” 

On May 31, Eby replaced former Socred minister Bud Smith as chair of BCLC with Peter Kappel, an accountant and investment banker who is also a director of PartnershipsBC.

Anti-money laundering expert Peter German.

Eby appointed anti-money laundering expert German late last September after releasing a 2016 consultant’s report that had been suppressed by the previous BC Liberal government. The MNP report said gamblers from China used underground banks to bring large volumes of potentially dirty money to play at River Rock.

German submitted his report on March 31 and it has yet to be released. 

theBreaker was first to report that criminology professor John Langdale warned an Australian police intelligence conference last November about the “Vancouver model” of money laundering. Langdale told the conference that the “Vancouver model” involved transnational drug trafficking and capital flight from China, gambling in B.C. casinos and investment in Canadian real estate.

Key to the scheme are B.C.’s Chinese sister province Guangdong, nearby financial centre Hong Kong and gambling haven Macau.

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BCLC Macau FOI .pdf by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin B.C. Lottery Corporation’s three amigos got

Bob Mackin

The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch recommended charges, administrative actions and warnings in 260 cases during the last fiscal year, a minimal increase of two cases. 

British Columbia’s gambling regulator’s annual report for the year-ended March 31, which was published May 31, said 1,158 of the 1,394 incidents reported last year were investigated. More than half of the incidents investigated — 593 — were classified by GPEB as non-gambling-related Criminal Code matters, such as assault, counterfeit currency, fraud, loan sharking, false ID, theft and threats. The number of files that were investigated increased by 22 over the previous year and enforcement action was taken in 61 cases, versus 34 in 2016-2017. 

River Rock Casino Resort (Great Canadian Gaming)

There were fewer Gaming Control Act offences investigated (179 last year, versus 218 in 2016-2017) and fewer enforcement actions taken (126 versus 151). 

Chip passing incident reports fell from 482 in 2016-2017 to 321 in 2017-2018, but a footnote said that GPEB does not take action because such offences are handled by casino management.

“GPEB collects this data to analyze any association to suspicious currency activities,” the report said. “It also does not include suspicious cash transactions (1,876 incidents in 2017/18) which are reported for intelligence purposes only, and are not investigated on a file-by-file basis.”

The suspicious cash transaction reports statistic fell from 2,310 the year before, the last fiscal year of the BC Liberal government. The number of reports of prohibited patrons caught entering gambling facilities grew from 2,608 to 3,271 last year. Incidents are the responsibility of casino management; GPEB does not take action unless they are repeat offenders.

David Eby, the NDP Attorney General responsible for gambling regulation and marketing, tabled the report during the last day of the spring sitting of the Legislature, two days after BC Liberal critic John Yap had quizzed him in a budget estimates hearing. There is no immediate explanation for the delay. 

Eby claimed in that hearing that BCLC would suffer a $30 million decline in net revenue from increased anti-money laundering controls which began last fall.

More than a month ago, Eby told theBreaker that an expert report submitted March 31 by Peter German into money laundering at Metro Vancouver casinos was supposed to be released before the end of the Legislature session. During the May 29 hearing, he told Yap that the $200,000 report’s release was delayed again, but he did not offer a new target date. Eby’s explanation — the reported needed vetting to protect privacy of individuals and police investigations — has not changed.  

The GPEB annual report said that it had established a Gaming Intelligence Group with the BCLC and police forces to reduce suspicious cash at casinos. 

The currency of choice at Vancouver casinos. (Bank of Canada)

GPEB’s budget was cut by more than $700,000 to $19.145 million in 2017-2018, of which $13.13 million was for core operations and $6.01 million to deal with addiction. The NDP’s 2018-2019 budget gave the agency a slight uptick, to $19.235 million. 

During the last fiscal year, BCLC netted $1.4 billion for government coffers after grossing $3.3 billion from casinos, bingo halls, racetracks, online gambling and lotteries. 

Almost a year ago, on June 13, 2017, B.C.’s organized crime police agency announced it had made several arrests in a year-long illegal gambling and money laundering investigation. Asked whether anyone had been charged yet, Sgt. Brenda Winpenny of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said on May 30 the investigation is still ongoing and no further information would be released at this time. 

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Bob Mackin The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch

Bob Mackin

The British Columbia Legislature breaks for four months on May 31. 

Two sessions under Premier John Horgan and the NDP will have come and gone with one major omission and one major surprise. Both undermining the Better B.C. slogan from the party’s 2017 election campaign and the subsequent throne speeches. 

First the omission. 

The Horgan Horde has done diddly-squat to fulfil promises to improve the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. 

B.C. Legislature on May 30 (Hansard)

In opposition and on the campaign trail, they vowed to bring in a meaningful duty to document law with fines up to $50,000 for those caught deleting or destroying public records without authorization. They wouldn’t tolerate another BC Liberal-style triple delete scandal under their watch.

Horgan had railed against the Clark Clique’s “culture of deceit, deception and delete.” Yet, BC Liberal opposition critics turned the tables on an embarrassed Horgan earlier this month, after they found various bureaucrats and cabinet members deleting their email or using personal accounts to hide information from the public. 

Jinny Sims, the minister in charge of the government’s FOI office, was ordered last July by Horgan to improve access to information rules to provide greater public accountability and to improve response and processing times for freedom of information requests. All she has done so far is run a time-wasting public consultation. 

The 2016 all-party review of the public disclosure law included lengthy public hearings for citizens and special interest groups. The committee’s report contains the roadmap for reform, but it is gathering dust on the shelf. 

The surprise? 

Paul Fraser, the conflict of interest commissioner since the start of 2008, is getting five more years on the job. That means, if he sticks around until 2023, he will have spent 15 years as a part-time Legislature watchdog pocketing a full-time, $273,000 annual salary. 

Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC called the process to reappoint Fraser “a rubber stamp from beginning to end.”

“Clearly given what’s transpired over the last few years in that office, there should have been a competition for that position,” Travis said.

It is as if the NDP, Greens and BC Liberals want to keep playing the game without a strict referee.

Fraser is known in some parts as the “conflicted commissioner.” 

In 2012, he recused himself from an investigation of Premier Christy Clark’s ties to the BC Rail scandal, because MLA John van Dongen rightfully pointed out that Fraser’s son, John Paul, was Clark’s propaganda chief. 

Four years later, Democracy Watch unsuccessfully asked a judge to find Fraser in conflict of interest, after he found nothing wrong with Clark’s $50,000-a-year party stipend derived from attending big money fundraisers. Not only was there the same, problematic father-son connection, but The New York Times reported that Fraser had made small donations to the BC Liberals before his appointment. 

The Commissioner is supposed to advise MLAs, meet with them at least once a year to review their disclosures and undertake investigations and inquiries of alleged contraventions of the Act. 

Paul Fraser, sitting behind John Horgan on May 30 (BC Leg)

Fraser has launched just 11 investigations and authored 10 of the reports over his decade in office. Miraculously, he found nobody flouted the rules. The law says that an apparent conflict of interest exists when “there is a reasonable perception which a reasonably well informed person could properly have, that the member’s ability to exercise an official power or perform an official duty or function must have been affected by his or her private interest.”

Premier Gordon Campbell’s post-Olympics trip to the secretive Bilderberg conference in 2010? Nothing to see here, Fraser ruled. Clark’s acceptance of tickets to the 2011 Stanley Cup final from Canucks’ owner and BC Liberal donor Francesco Aquilini? Nothing to see here, Fraser ruled. Clark’s contract to recruit foreign students and lobby Canadian universities? Nothing to see here, Fraser ruled. 

Rather than explain his decisions to the public, through curious reporters, Fraser adopted a “move along” strategy. 

He even told his assistant to ignore this reporter. 

A five-person, all-party committee, chaired by the NDP’s Rachna Singh and vice-chair Eric Foster of the BC Liberals, revealed in its May 30 report that it met nine times since last November. All behind closed doors. Fraser expressed interest in remaining in the job and got an interview last Dec. 12. 

“I’m a little puzzled by this sense in the report that he’s been a stellar conflict of interest commissioner,” Travis said. “He’s been a very well-paid commissioner.”

Fraser dutifully sat behind the government benches during the afternoon, before he was unanimously reappointed. 

“Mr. Fraser has provided strong and effective leadership as Conflict of Interest Commissioner since he was first appointed in 2008,” Singh told the Legislature. “The committee was impressed by his expertise, experience and reputation, and is confident in his ability to continue overseeing the conflict-of-interest provisions for members.”

For reasons left unmentioned, the committee did not test the waters, to find out if there was anyone better than the 77-year-old Fraser available. Neither Singh nor Foster responded to theBreaker for comment. 

“To be fair to him, part of the rap that he’s had to face is, frankly, related to the deficiencies in the legislation itself,” Travis said. 

In opposition, last year, the NDP tabled a private member’s bill for a new Conflict of Interest Act to cover ministerial staff, former deputy ministers and advisors, as well as senior Crown corporation and agency executives. Fines would have been up to $50,000 and suspensions from office up to two years. The BC Liberals did as governments do, let private member’s bills die on the order paper.

There is no sign when or if the Horgan Horde will resurrect that bill and expand the aging Fraser’s workload and prevent corruption. 

Fraser’s new term began on a day when Clark was announced as a senior advisor at the Bennett Jones law firm in the Guinness Tower, the same building where the official opposition maintains a Vancouver office. Clark is hanging out her shingle, as a government relations, infrastructure, international trade and technology expert. This is the same career politician that went to three universities and gained not a single diploma. The same career politician that became premier after the bulk theft of PIN numbers by her leadership campaign workers. 

Rather than setting the bar higher on government-wide transparency and integrity of public officials, and giving life to the Better B.C. slogan, the Horgan Horde seems content to leave the bar right where it is. 

Low. 

BC Liberal low. 

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Bob Mackin The British Columbia Legislature breaks for

Bob Mackin

B.C. Lottery Corporation’s new ad campaign that uses a raccoon to promote soccer betting is inappropriate, according to an official with the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

In a one-minute video for the PlayNow Wild Cup Challenge, Hank the Raccoon prowls a forest and finds opposing national dishes under national flags, such as fish and chips for England and tamales for Colombia. 

BCLC’s Hank the Raccoon eating fish and chips in an ad that the SPCA calls inappropriate (BCLC)

“We let Hank the Raccoon pick his World Cup bracket based on which country’s food he likes best,” reads the website. “Now it’s your turn.”

“They think it’s probably a fun gimmick to have a raccoon picking food,” B.C. SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois told theBreaker. “They’re encouraging feeding a wild animal, which is completely contrary to all the messaging that ourselves, and many other organizations, put out there.” 

Indeed, the SPCA website warns against feeding wild animals, such as raccoons, because they can lose their fear of humans and pose a risk to humans, pets and themselves. “Feeding wildlife is also responsible for human-wildlife conflicts in many B.C. communities,” according to the SPCA. “Animals adapt to an artificial abundance of food, but when food becomes scarce, as in winter or when people stop feeding them, animals face starvation.”

BCLC refused to answer questions about the ethics of running an ad that is based on humans feeding a wild animal.

BCLC spokeswoman Anjee Gill called Hank “a rescued, domesticated raccoon who lives with his family in the Fraser Valley and was introduced to BCLC through its marketing agency for the Wild Cup Challenge, 123 West Communications.”

Gill said specialized animal trainers safely handled Hank during the Maple Ridge shoot and they followed American Humane Society (AHA) Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media for the $250,000 ad campaign. 

Since 2008, the B.C. SPCA has opposed the keeping of wild animals (species that have not been domesticated) for use in the film and TV industry. Dubois said the SPCA does not recognize the AHA program because it only covers animals on set, not where they are housed or trained. 

“It’s a nice-to-have [credit], I’m sure, for movie companies and TV, but it’s not something that would meet our standard,” Dubois said.

A 2013 investigation by the Hollywood Reporter found that AHA awarded the “no animals were harmed” credit to film and TV show productions on which animals had been injured. “It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incident occurred while cameras weren’t rolling,” said the story.

The office of NDP Environment Minister George Heyman did not respond to theBreaker. Liam Butler, a spokesman for Attorney General David Eby, said the government does not routinely review or approve BCLC ad campaigns. 

The B.C. government’s own Environmental Protection and Sustainability website clearly states: “Do not put food out for raccoons or other wildlife and never leave pet food where wildlife can get it.” 

BCLC and its ad agency were inspired by zoo and aquarium animals that became social media stars for picking winners in previous World Cups. 

Paul the Octopus at Germany’s Sea Life Centre famously went 12-for-14 in picks for the 2010 World Cup, including correctly predicting Spain as the winner. That spawned a menagerie of imitators in 2014, such as Flopsy the Kangaroo in Australia Zoo, Big Head the Turtle in a Brazilian turtle sanctuary, and bears in Sichuan, China’s Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre. 

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Bob Mackin B.C. Lottery Corporation's new ad campaign

Bob Mackin

The Lower Mainland’s big five casinos won’t have round-the-clock coverage by Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch officers after all, Attorney General David Eby admitted in the Legislature on May 29. 

Last December, the Eby-hired anti-money laundering expert Peter German recommended GPEB staff needed to be seen on-shift and available in casinos “on a 24/7 basis.” 

“The presence of the regulator will allow for the increased vigilance required in casinos,” German stated in his interim recommendation. “In particular, it will assist with source of fund issues, third party cash drops, and general support for [gaming service providers] and B.C. Lottery Corporation.”

B.C. Attorney General Eby in Ottawa, March 27.

Eby said GPEB staff are now on-shift beyond 9-to-5 on weekdays, but there will not be blanket coverage at Great Canadian’s River Rock and Hard Rock, Gateway’s Grand Villa and Starlight, and Paragon’s Parq. Under questioning from BC Liberal critic John Yap, Eby said: “We don’t want somebody sitting by themselves at 5:30 in the morning at the River Rock Casino. We wanted… When I say we, Dr. German wanted investigators to be there at the peak times, to focus on the risk-based and to be available outside of Monday to Friday, nine-to-five.”

GPEB has 18 investigators, with two job offers outstanding and a target of two to three more hires, Eby said. 

Update: On June 6, staff in Eby’s office clarified his statements. They told theBreaker that GPEB investigators are on-shift from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. and that there are 15 existing investigators from GPEB offices in Burnaby, Kelowna, Prince George and Victoria. Up to eight more will be hired. “GPEB has recently hired three additional investigators, expects another two to join the team in the coming weeks, and there is an open posting to acquire additional temporary staff as soon as possible,” said the statement from Eby’s communications office.

German, a University of B.C. law professor and author of a leading anti-money laundering textbook, submitted his 250-page, 48-recommendation report on March 31. In an April 20 interview, Eby told theBreaker that the report was set for release by the May 31 end of the spring session of the Legislature. He said it was being delayed because of required vetting to avoid compromising any law enforcement investigations or anyone’s private information.

His reasons for the delay have changed very little in the past month. On May 29, he told the Legislature that the release of the $200,000 report had been delayed again. He stopped short of offering a new publication date. 

“We have had some challenges around ensuring the protection of privacy rights of individuals identified in the report and ensuring that we don’t accidentally step on the toes of any law enforcement investigations. As soon as that is done, the report will be released,” Eby said.

Documents obtained under the freedom of information law by theBreaker indicate that the topic of GPEB regulators in casinos at night and on weekends did not appear to have been discussed at all between the heads of GPEB and BCLC until a month after German’s recommendation was released. They agreed in early January to collaborate on the issue, but did not discuss a strategy or schedule. 

Instead, GPEB and BCLC engaged in a back-and-forth dispute over implementing another German recommendation — for collection of a customer’s identification and proof of the source of their funds for casino transactions of $10,000 and up. 

In a Dec. 13 letter, GPEB Assistant Deputy Minister John Mazure told BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody that it was “critical” for GPEB to approve the source of funds declaration, and the policies and procedures around its use, prior to implementation.

Lightbody replied the same day, emphasizing that the Gaming Control Act already gave BCLC authority to enact rules which have the force of law. BCLC planned on implementing the policy by Dec. 18.

Lightbody wrote that he was concerned about Mazure’s suggestion that GPEB’s review would delay policy rollout.  

BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody

“BCLC does not agree with your assertion that GPEB approval is required before BCLC’s implementation of the [source of funds declaration] recommendation,” Lightbody wrote. 

GPEB licensing executive director Kim Bruce replied Dec. 15, asserting GPEB jurisdiction over the integrity and regulation of gambling in B.C. GPEB, she said, needed to approve the final version of the “source of funds declaration and the politics and pressures around its use prior to the implementation of the declaration.”

Lightbody softened his tone, and told Bruce in a Dec. 19 letter that “we are willing to work with you on this.” 

On Dec. 27, however, Bruce wrote that the BCLC-proposed source of funds declaration was faulty because it did not require a patron to confirm accuracy of information with a signature. 

“The gaming worker can only confirm the source of funds declaration reflects the information provided to them by the patron,” said Bruce’s letter. “This is not a substitute for the signature of the patron… the patron’s signature can also be useful in any subsequent investigation, particularly if it demonstrates that a patron provided false information. Failure to obtain the signatures of both the gaming worker and the patron significantly weakens the collection of information in the source of funds declaration. As a result GPEB does not support this approach.”

On Jan. 2, Lightbody reluctantly agreed to Bruce’s demand. “Having the customer sign the declaration will be done, however we want to point out that requiring a signature provides no real protection and will create some potential customer service challenges that we will have to overcome.” 

In his weekly “Jim Session” memo to staff on Jan. 15, Lightbody boasted that BCLC had implemented the first of German’s interim recommendations the previous Wednesday. 

“This means that all cash and bank draft/certified cheque buy-ins for $10,000 or more, in one or more transactions within a 24-hour period, will require a source of funds receipt,” Lightbody wrote. “The original receipt must be from the same day of the transaction and show the financial institution, branch number and account number. This information will be required before a customer is allowed to buy in and will be reviewed daily by BCLC’s [anti-money laundering] unit. You should know that we have always completed due diligence like this on our customers using a risk based approach. I can also tell you that we will embrace the new procedures wholeheartedly.”

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Bob Mackin The Lower Mainland’s big five casinos

The 29th anniversary of a turning point in history is coming June 4. 

On that day, in 1989, soldiers violently regained Tiananmen Square from thousands of students and their allies who had occupied the symbolic centre of China for more than six weeks. We may never know exactly how many of them died. The students wanted to end corruption, to make life for average Chinese less harsh and more equal, says Fenella Sung of Friends of Hong Kong.

Nearly three decades later, the Chinese Communist Party is even more powerful. State censorship means an entire generation has grown up in China not knowing the truth about June 4, 1989. 

Sung, a Vancouver translator, was a reporter in the 1980s in Hong Kong with RTHK. She said the shocking turn of events in Beijing led to her own political awakening. Since the Tiananmen Square Massacre, China regained possession of Hong Kong in 1997, held the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing and won the right to host the Winter Olympics in 2022.

The world’s most populous nation is now an economic superpower with significant influence around the Pacific Rim and across the world. China is constantly making headlines for invasive new surveillance techniques and sophisticated propaganda campaigns, ongoing diplomatic pressure to disregard Taiwan’s democratically elected government, resistance to pro-democracy campaigns in Hong Kong, leader Xi Jinping’s recently enacted presidency for life and the migration of wealthy Chinese across the Pacific.  

“We should be aware and be alarmed as to what’s happening now, and not to think that what’s happening inside China won’t affect us here in Vancouver or here in Canada today, actually, every minute,” Sung told host Bob Mackin. “What’s happening there has ripple effects around the world, including for us here.”

Hear the full interview with Sung on this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, plus host Mackin’s commentaries and a scan of Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: On the Tiananmen tragedy, 29 years later
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The 29th anniversary of a turning point

Bob Mackin

The on-again, off-again meeting for Vancouver-Point Grey residents to give their MLA an earful over the NDP government’s new property surtax is on again.

But it has spawned another controversy.

David Eby, who is also the Attorney General, cancelled a May 1 town hall at St. James Community Hall. BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson had encouraged anyone to attend who was upset with paying 0.2% more on the value of a property over $3 million or another 0.4% over the $4 million threshold. 

B.C. Attorney General Eby in Ottawa, March 27.

Eby feared volunteer ushers would be overwhelmed by a crowd beyond the venue’s regulated capacity, so he vowed to reschedule the event at a bigger site. Opponents protested anyway, later that day at Trimble Park. 

Last week, Eby announced a June 4 meeting at the larger Hellenic Community Centre on Arbutus. But those who had tickets to the cancelled May 1 event weren’t given the courtesy of first chance to sign-up for tickets for the new meeting. Instead they’re stuck on a waiting list and Eby is accused of populating the June 4 meeting in his favour. Eby said constituents on his office’s general email list were notified of the new event and it was promoted on social media. 

“I know that the anti-school tax people distributed it to their list too, in the first 12 hours of the sign-up I noticed, staff noticed, there were a lot of people from the anti-school tax group signing up,” Eby said in an interview. 

Those on the waiting list can get in front of Eby sooner, by attending the May 27 West Point Grey Residents Association (WPGRA) forum on the tax at Jericho Hill School. 

“There’s not one, but, in fact two events where people can come and attend. One event is being run entirely by a third party so I’m not sure how we would restrict that to NDP supporters,” Eby said. 

A March 27 WPGRA letter to Eby and Premier John Horgan said the additional school tax contravenes the NDP’s stated goal to make life more affordable for British Columbians. The residents complained that a property’s assessed value has no relationship to the owner’s ability to pay. Deferral isn’t a solution, they contend, because that is only delaying debt. 

The association also issued a subtle warning to Eby and Horgan: cancel the tax or risk defeat. “The Vancouver-Point Grey riding would be substantially affected and it would undermine Mr. Eby’s seat and the government’s slim majority.”

The tax has proven so unpopular that ex-NDP premier Mike Harcourt told theBreaker that Horgan should rethink it. Pressure from Westsiders in 1993 caused Harcourt’s administration to cancel a similar tax. Harcourt said the Westside already pays a disproportionate amount of school tax and the new surtax would hit longtime residents who are seniors especially hard. 

Coincidentally, one of Horgan’s cabinet members, Minister of State for Trade George Chow, is subject to a hefty tax increase, because he has a $5.085 million house in the Vancouver-Fairview riding

If anything, Eby is now more of a lightning rod than he was on May 1. Lower Mainlanders upset with the NDP government see Eby, not finance minister Carole James, as the de facto deputy premier. The BC Liberals are using the property tax controversy as the first step in a campaign to regain the riding once held by former premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark. BC Liberal director of operations Kavi Bal has been involved in project management, advice, media messaging and training of surtax opponents. 

Notice for a meeting hosted by the West Point Grey Residents Association, which opposes the new NDP schools surtax on properties worth over $3 million.

BC Liberals still haven’t forgotten about Eby’s role as dragonslayer. He dealt the party its only blow on the night of the 2013 election when Clark lost her own seat. She then sought an easy riding in Kelowna, but never fulfilled a promise to get a residence there. Instead she became known as the “Duchess of Dunbar” for moving to a house owned by a party supporter in Dunbar. She was eventually embarrassed into eschewing charter jet flights to the Okanagan for photo ops. 

Eby has the most-difficult tasks in the Horgan government, and is ruffling feathers among those who enjoyed the Clark Clique’s laissez faire approach. He is trying to bring back a sense of law and order after it took a backseat under predecessor Suzanne Anton, who turned a blind eye to money laundering in casinos and the real estate market. Eby is charged with rescuing ICBC, which could mean substantially less business for lawyers, of which Vancouver-Point Grey has many. He is also the minister overseeing the upcoming referendum on proportional representation. 

Even those within the NDP tent, upset with Horgan’s decision to green light Site C, have found their way to Eby’s door. 

“People will travel from across the province to come to events held by the attorney general to talk to me about issues they are concerned about, maybe their own case, maybe a government policy, and how do we balance that with being open and available to constituents?” Eby said. 

“This new [June 4] event will be an experiment in trying to ensure that continued openness and availability to constituents, and also recognizing there will be protesters, everybody from trial lawyers to people concerned about Site C to people concerned about the school tax and I need to be available to my constituents about the work the government is doing around improving access to housing and dealing with homelessness and dealing with the housing crisis. It’s a work in progress and we’re trying to figure out a way to preserve the best parts of the openness we’ve enjoyed, while recognizing that the attorney general’s office I hold now attracts a whole different level of scrutiny and attention.” 

Attention that can only become more intense, as the next scheduled provincial election in 2021 approaches. 

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Bob Mackin The on-again, off-again meeting for

Bob Mackin 

Hundreds of concrete segments that were made to line the walls of SkyTrain’s Evergreen Line tunnel were rejected because of overcuring by SNC-Lavalin’s Langley supplier. 

But dozens of segments at risk of cracking were installed before the problem was detected more than four years ago, according to documents released under the freedom of information law. 

Inside the Evergreen Line tunnel (Mackin)

EGRT, the SNC-Lavalin company that built the 2016-opened Millennium Line extension, asked the BC Liberal government to increase the maximum specified temperature for curing concrete from the standard 60 Celsius to 70 Celsius. APS Architectural Precast Structures of Langley even cured some of the segments at more than 80 C, furthering worries that the segments would expand or crack because of a phenomenon known as delayed ettringite formation, or DEF.

In a June 4, 2014 letter to her EGRT counterpart, Evergreen Line project director Amanda Farrell rejected EGRT’s request. She conceded that the province would accept segments already cured up to 70 C, but would not accept any new segments that had been cured above 60 C. 

“For the tunnel liner segments cast between 70 C to 80 C, and not yet installed in the tunnel, EGRT has indicated that these segments in the yard will be rejected by EGRT,” Farrell wrote. “For the tunnel liner segments cast between 70 C to 80 C, and installed in the tunnel, EGRT has advised that there are 27 tunnel liner segments that fall in this category.”

More than three times as many were eventually installed. 

SNC-Lavalin’s Jeff Spruston agreed two days later to Farrell’s demands that all overcured segments that had been installed would be identified and subject to regular inspection, monitoring and reporting. Support bolts were to be left intact to enable load sharing, should DEF occur. The standard two-year warranty would be extended by 10 years for the affected segments. 

Farrell relied on the opinion of Halifax-based cement expert Dr. Wilbert Langley, whose April 28, 2014 report said that 70 C was “commonly accepted worldwide, and some authorities permit up to 77 C if supplementary cementing materials (slag, fly ash, silica fume) are used in concrete manufacture.”

Hundreds of Evergreen Line tunnel liner segments like this were overcured (BC Gov)

Wrote Langley: “It is our opinion based on the field data reviewed for concrete casting and curing and cement chemical analysis, that DEF will not occur. Also the finite element analysis on the units confirms high internal temperatures and temperature differentials have not had an adverse effect on cracking.” 

Two local consultants had reservations, both emphasizing the urgency to keep the tunnel dry. 

Christopher Howard of Hatch Mott MacDonald wrote May 29, 2014 that it was not practical to replace the segments in question, but secondary grouting and internal waterproofing may help achieve a dry environment. “Neither of these methods provide a suitable solution to this problem. It is therefore evermore necessary that the contractor is successful in achieving a dry tunnel environment with low ground water infiltration through high quality of ring build and annulus grouting,” Howard wrote. 

Howard proposed inspections to monitor deterioration and leaving bolts in the segments. 

On June 2, 2014, Russ Riffell of Levelton Consultants wrote in an email that DEF concerns remained unchanged, notwithstanding Langley’s expert opinion. 

“If the environment could be controlled such that the subject tunnel liners would not be exposed to groundwater, we would be pleased to re-visit our opinion, but we understand that this is just not feasible,” Riffell wrote. “So we recommend that EGRT offer an extended warranty or some other form of guarantee acceptable to the province for the subject segments.”

As of Jan. 8, 2015, 1,375 segments cured at 61 C to 70 C had been installed or were waiting for installation, 78 were in the 71 C to 80 C range and one was greater than 80 C. Three weeks later, data shows that 449 segments had been rejected and 10,028 were available, with 356 still to be fabricated. 

No safety risk, says project director

A statement attributed to Farrell was released with more than 5,200 pages of information and data about the troubled segments. 

Farrell wrote that 82 tunnel segments were identified as being cured at higher than 70 C. Out of an abundance of caution, Farrell wrote, EGRT installed interconnecting bolts for load sharing between each segment and agreed to the extended warranty with annual inspections. 

“After the 10 years, the tunnel will fall under the SkyTrain operator’s regular three-year inspection program for structures. Although the likelihood is low, should minor cracking and flaking in these segments occur, they will be repaired under this warranty using standard accepted repair procedures,” Farrell wrote. “Again, these segments will not pose any safety risks to the Evergreen Line or the travelling public.” 

How did the contractor and/or subcontractor let so many segments escape quality control?  

Clark christened the tunnel boring machine March 7, 2014 (BC Gov)

A Sept. 11, 2014 quality surveillance report said that the curing temperature of cast segments is monitored by a computer-controlled program in real time, but “there is no warning system of any kind when curing temperatures do not meet specified limits or when trends project temperatures may exceed specifications.”

APS quality control manager Suhoon Bae wrote on Oct. 20, 2014: “The system APS is currently using has an alarm-function for fault-temperature sensors; with the help of this function, APS [quality control] assigns one personnel for continual monitoring the temperature development over the time and peak temperature. The steam system is automatically turned off when the peak temperature of the segment reaches to the pre-setting temperature.” 

Claire Trevena was the NDP’s transportation critic until last July, when she succeeded BC Liberal Todd Stone as minister. But her staff refused to arrange an interview or answer theBreaker’s questions about when or if inspections of the segments have occurred. Trevena spokeswoman Katie Robb referred theBreaker to Partnerships BC, the government’s privatization and infrastructure agency, and TransLink. 

Neither TransLink nor PartnershipsBC responded. 

TransLink’s board of directors and the Mayors’ Council are scheduled for a June 28 joint meeting to rubber stamp the Broadway subway, which has ballooned in price by more than $600 million to $2.83 billion. Like the Evergreen Line, the Broadway subway will be a bored tunnel. 

Scandal-plagued, Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin has been involved in every phase of SkyTrain development and is expected to bid when TransLink goes to tender for the Millennium Line extension to Arbutus. SNC-Lavalin was awarded the Evergreen Line contract in 2012, after its then-chair, Gwyn Morgan, had been a member of Premier Christy Clark’s transition team. 

The problem with the overcured segments was one of a series of unfortunate 2014 events that beset the project, after Clark christened the tunnel boring machine on March 7, 2014. 

Just a week after the photo op, a concrete span shifted over Como Lake Road and a worker suffered a concussion after a hose knocked him down on the same day. 

WorkSafeBC investigated substandard tunnel exhaust ventilation in April and, in June, a launching truss fell on the guideway and a trailer carrying a concrete section flipped on a highway in Richmond. 

Sinkholes and tunnel boring malfunctions under Port Moody and Coquitlam delayed completion by six months. It finally opened Dec. 2, 2016, yet, the BC Liberals claimed the $1.43 billion project came in $79 million under budget. 

The Ministry of Transportation resisted disclosure of change order costs until summer 2017, when the NDP took over. As theBreaker reported late last year, the ministry said $19 million was spent on changes for items not included in the original contract and $17 million on unanticipated items. 

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Bob Mackin  Hundreds of concrete segments that were

Bob Mackin

The third man wanted for viciously beating an autistic man at a Mississauga, Ont. bus station is in custody. 

Ronjot Dhami (left), Parm Chahil, and Jaspaul Uppal (Peel Regional Police)

Jaspaul Singh Uppal, 21, surrendered to police in Abbotsford and he was flown under guard to Toronto on May 23, according to theBreaker sources.

Peel Regional Police identified Uppal and issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest on May 16. Three days later, Uppal surrendered to the Abbotsford Police. He will face an aggravated assault charge, like his alleged accomplices, 21-year-old Parmvir Singh Chahil from Abbotsford and 25-year-old Ronjot Singh Dhami of Surrey. 

Before the end of March, Dhami turned himself in to police in suburban Toronto and Chahil was arrested in Windsor, Ont. 

The three are suspects in a brief, but violent attack on an autistic man who was putting on rollerblades in the bus terminal beside Square One Mall in Mississauga on March 13. The victim was seriously injured in the attack, which was captured on surveillance video. 

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Bob Mackin The third man wanted for viciously